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12.06.2019 Asia

Hong Kong protesters urged to disperse

AFP/Anthony Wallace
LISTEN JUN 12, 2019
AFP/Anthony Wallace

A top Hong Kong administrator on Wednesday urged thousands of protestors  blocking roads around Hong Kong's parliament to disperse and obey the law. Matthew Cheung, the city's chief secretary, urged demonstrators to end their public objections to plans to allow extraditions to China.and go home.

"I also urge citizens who have gathered to show restraint as much as possible, disperse peacefully and do not defy the law," he said in a video message.

Protesters surrounded government offices and disrupted traffic as they called on authorities to scrap the Beijing-backed plan.

Rows of riot police confronted protesters - many of whom wore face masks, helmets or goggles - hours ahead of a scheduled debate in the city's legislature.

With the numbers of demonstrators continuing to grow, the Legislative Council  (Legco) said it would delay the second reading of the bill.

Organisers of a march on Sunday said more than a million people turned out to voice their objections to the proposed law, which would allow Hong Kong to send suspects to other jurisdictions around the world -- including China.

But the record numbers have failed to sway pro-Beijing chief executive Carrie Lam, who has rejected calls to withdraw the bill.

Many opponents are fearful the law would entangle people in the mainland's opaque courts, leaving them vulnerable to a justice system seen as acting at the behest of the Chinese Communist Party.

More than 100 Hong Kong businesses said they would close on Wednesday to show solidarity with the protesters. The city's leading student unions announced a boycott of classes to go to the rallies.

A string of other prominent unions in the transport, social work and teaching sectors either followed suit or encouraged members to attend while a bus drivers' union said it would encourage members to drive deliberately slowly to support protests.

Lawmakers had been due to debate the bill on Wednesday morning in the city's legislature, which is dominated by Beijing loyalists, with a final vote expected on 20 June

Hong Kong's leaders say the proposed law is needed to plug loopholes and to stop the city being a sanctuary for fugitives. They insist that safeguards are in place to ensure that political critics of Beijing will not be targeted.

But many Hong Kongers have little faith in the government's assurances after years of heightened fears that Beijing is trying to quash the city's unique freedoms and culture - despite a 50-year agreement between Hong Kong's former colonial ruler, Britain, and China that means the city is guaranteed freedoms unseen on the Chinese mainland.

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